Hacksaw Ridge (2016) – Film Review

Serving as both an intense war film as well as the real-life biography of Desmon T. Dos, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is a respected Oscar-nominated film which deserves much of the praise it receives. As through the stand-out performance by Andrew Garfield alongside the attractive cinematography by Simon Duggan and array of tense moments, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ soon becomes a very emotional and memorable experience for any viewer, whether overly familiar with the war genre or not.

Based-on the real-life story of World War II American Army Medic Desmon T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa and refused to kill anyone despite push-back from his superiors. Doss soon became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a single shot-on the battlefield.

Directed by Mel Gibson (Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypto), ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is most effective when displaying war at it’s most brutal, never turning away from displaying the graphic violence and horrific destruction World War II inflicted on many people’s lives, and while the film can sometimes go a little too far when it comes to its gore (feeling a little tasteless and over-the-top at points). I did find ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ more engaging than many similar films within the war genre, and the grim atmosphere the film presents is sure to keep any audience member constantly on the edge-of-their-seat.

The main cast of Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths and Luke Bracey are all phenomenal, with Andrew Garfield in particular, giving a fantastic performance as Desmon T. Dos. Never failing to portray him as a likeable and brave man thrown-into the dark world of war, despite a huge amount of scenes being left-on the cutting-room floor as a result of time, which I feel is a shame, as the film isn’t overly long and could’ve benefitted from a few more moments of characterisation. However, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ also features some extremely peculiar choices when it comes to the supporting cast, as Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington both portray strict war-camp generals early-on in the story, which in spite of them both giving fairly decent performances within their roles, I couldn’t help but feel their characters could’ve been better cast.

Although the cinematography by Simon Duggan isn’t anything overly incredible throughout the runtime, the film does have a number of visually pleasing shots, in addition to the film utilising an array of hand-held shots to further the film’s presentation of the uncontrollable chaos of war. Unfortunately, despite not being used very heavily throughout the film, the shots involving CGI that we do see could definitely do with some improvement. As the CG effects for the film’s enormous battleships and fiery explosions do look a little unusual when compared to the film’s time-period accurate battlefront.

The original score by Rupert Gregson-Williams is one of the stronger elements of the film however, as the soundtrack helps to build tension throughout the story in addition to being surprisingly memorable. Although in my opinion, I always felt the score never quite managed to build tension as well as the score for: ‘Dunkirk’, or had the huge emotional impact as the original score from one of the definitive war films: ‘Saving Private Ryan’, which stopped the soundtrack from reaching the heights it truly could. That being said, the late James Horner was initially attached to the film after being the composer for much of Gibson’s other work. But after Horner’s untimely death, another composer was brought-on before Rupert Gregson-Williams was eventually finalised-on, so the film’s soundtrack has been through a very rough-road of development.

One area of the film I feel is fairly underappreciated is the make-up and costume design, as every horrific injury seen throughout the film always appears realistic and looks extremely painful, whilst every costume also feels very accurate to the film’s time-period, almost making the film appear as if the production actually took-place during World War II itself. These elements also help make-up for some of the weak writing early-on in the film. As whilst the film’s writing isn’t awful by any means, a large amount of the dialogue could be seen as a little cheesy/cliché when it comes to developing the film’s characters.

‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is one of those rare films that is both entertaining and distressing, whilst it isn’t quite perfect in its execution, mostly due to its few small issues in regards to its writing, excessive violence and supporting cast. I still feel all of these problems are mostly minor when compared to the remainder of the film. As ‘Hacksaw Ridge’s brilliant war-torn visuals and tense atmosphere on-top of the memorable and charismatic performance by Andrew Garfield, leave ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ a film I feel many should see at least once, and is a solid 8/10 overall.

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